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El Pasoans struggling as Congress mulls unemployment benefits decision

By Crystal Price
EL PASO, Texas -- The Senate voted early on Tuesday to move forward on a bill that would extend long-term unemployment insurance for the next three months..

The bill moved forward with a 60-37 vote from the Senate.

However, the bill still has to be approved by the House before President Obama can sign it into law.

Meanwhile, 2,573 El Pasoans are struggling to get by without their unemployment benefits.

Fifty-five-year-old David Gipson from West El Paso is among that group of people.

"It's been a struggle, cause the benefits ended, and there is no financial support for my family," Gipson said. "How do you feed yourself? How do you keep a roof over your head? How do you get the things that are necessary to survive?" Gipson said.

Twenty-four year old Robert Mendoza from East El Paso has been without a job for a while and he said there are zero prospects in sight.

"I got used to having a set amount of money coming in and now I don't have it," Mendoza said. "I have to pay attention to how I spend the little bit of money I do have."

Both Gipson and Mendoza are seeking help finding jobs at Workforce Solutions in downtown El Paso.

"We have more people coming more frequently to our centers," Reyes said.

Lorenzo Reyes, executive director at Workforce Solutions, said they have seen a 10 to 15 percent increase in traffic in recent weeks.

Reyes added they have the necessary staff to take on the extra load.

"We are making sure we're taking care of our customers on a one-on-one basis," Lorenzo said. "We try to identify their strengths and provide them a better opportunity for employment."

As for Gipson, he said he'll keep applying for work as he waits for Congress to make a decision.

"When you have unemployed people, that to me makes no sense at all," Gipson said. "Especially when you took most of the jobs out of the country. Why would that even be an issue?"

President Obama spoke at an event on Tuesday pushing for the Congress to extend the unemployment benefits program.

The Emergency Unemployment Compensation program was first enacted by George W. Bush in 2008 to provide relief for the long-term unemployed.



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